If you thought you could hide from your past of side-swept bangs and peace signs everywhere, the iOS 17.5 update is reviving deleted photos that you never thought you’d have to see again. iPhone users have been found complaining about an iOS 17.5 photo bug that has restored images that users had deleted years ago, certain that they were permanently erased from existence. The iOS 17.5 photo resurfacing issues cause old images to reappear in the Photos app as the “most recently added,” which implies they are being reuploaded from somewhere. Now whether that’s from the device cache itself or a cloud reserve, we do not know. 

The iPhone update with the deleted photos sounds a little creepy and a little annoying at first glance but it doesn’t evoke a sense of panic really. That’s until you consider that users have had NSFW photos returned to their library without prompting their iPhones to do any such thing. It raises the question of whether your data is ever truly deleted when you want it gone. Privacy concerns have erupted as an aftermath of the iOS update issues in 2024. 

Over the last two months, there have been reports that the EU is getting too comfortable with ordering Apple around. If the European Union has its way, Apple will be forced to allow users to delete the Photos app itself—the basic system-level interface where all the images of your camera roll go. If Apple isn’t able to resolve the iOS 17.5 photo bug quickly, it might find its users more open to this unreasonable idea. 

iOS 17.5 deleted photos

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Updates Arriving with iOS 17.5: Deleted Photos Return with a Vengeance

News of the iPhone update restoring deleted photos broke first on Reddit, where users began to discuss how images that had been taken and deleted years ago were now reappearing in their gallery. Reliable sources like MacRumors and The Verge have confirmed that these issues are very real and that they were pointed out by beta testers last week. Apple likely did not take their feedback into consideration before a full-scale release. The Cupertino company is already in the middle of balancing controversy after their “Crush” ad backfired recently. People saw the commercial as the destruction of creativity—and of humanity by extension. The company’s announcement about upcoming accessibility features with iOS 18 momentarily turned the tides in their favor, but this iOS 17.5 photo bug story is not a good look for them right about now.

According to those who updated to iOS 17.5, deleted photos from years earlier have reappeared on their phones. Some of the deleted images include NSFW content that they had created and deleted to ensure these were safely removed from any prying eyes. Erased images on the iPad have also returned similarly, with the iOS 17.5 photo bug extending to the updates on the company’s other devices as well. One user who had reset their iPad and sold it to their friend received a call from said friend, alerting them that the user’s images from September 2023 had appeared in the Photos app on that device. 

If this is true, there is a lot more to be worried about other than having to delete your own images from your device all over again. There should technically be encryption in place to ensure that any data from one account cannot be accessed by another, even if the device used remains the same. Wiping the device should have also wiped the encryption keys that would allow access to any remaining data that was once stored there. Many of the users on the Reddit post remain skeptical about the validity of this particular story, but if there’s one iOS 17.5 photo bug at work, there could be additional problems it has unlocked that we don’t fully understand yet. 

Why Is the iOS 17.5 Update Causing Deleted Photos to Reappear?

The major issue with the iOS 17.5 deleted photos controversy is that Apple is only supposed to store deleted images for 30 days to give users the opportunity to restore their images if they were erased by mistake. Once it crosses the 30-day mark, images are expected to be erased permanently. Unfortunately, the iPhone’s “deleted photos bug” suggests there is a cache somewhere with all the data still held firmly in place. Not only does it exist, but it can also be unlocked quite simply to have it spill all its contents for review. Especially considering that most have found really old photos returning, it is concerning to think about just how extensive these data reserves and and whether Apple has known about it all along. 

The explanation is probably a very oversimplified way of looking at it. Most people know that all data is never truly deleted, we only lose access to it over time when we choose to delete the information. According to NPR, when you delete something, your device just opens the space to be overwritten with new information when free space runs out. If you have more than sufficient storage space available, then there is rarely occasion for the information to be overwritten. Even then, the information is likely still recoverable by those who are patient enough to try. 

The exact reason behind why updating iOS 17.5 brings deleted photos back remains unknown. The software upgrade may have revealed some underlying indexing or caching issues. Some have suggested that a corruption of the photo library due to the iOS 17.5 photo bug may have caused these new problems to arise. So far, we have no satisfactory explanations for why the iPhone update caused deleted photos to return. Any kind of iOS 17.5 photo bug should have impacted images in the Photos app currently, not those that were erased a long time ago. The tech giant has not made any public statements on the issue yet, but this isn’t one of those situations where they can get away with a simple apology as they wait for the problem to fade out.